What to Eat – Lemon Blueberry Muffins

The easiest way to make these is to buy a Krusteaz Lemon Poppyseed Muffin mix and add a cup or so of blueberries instead of the poppyseed packet that’s included.

Making them from scratch isn’t particularly difficult or overly time consuming. Quick breads, which is how muffins are classified, have a pretty simple base recipe. It’s pretty easy to change up this base recipe to add fruits, spices or flavors so you don’t get bored eating them.

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

This recipe is from Two Peas and Their Pod. Check out their recipe for Cherry Almond Streusel Muffins. Both cherries and almond flavors are not horribly affected by chemo.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

Lemon Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray or line with paper muffin liners.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In another small bowl, combine sugar and lemon zest. Rub the sugar and lemon zest together with your fingers until fragrant.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla, lemon juice, and milk. Mix until combined. Add flour mixture and mix on low until just combined. Gently stir in the blueberries.

Divide batter evenly into 12 muffin cups. Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let muffins cool on a wire rack.

While the muffins are cooling, make the lemon glaze. In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice. Drizzle the glaze over the muffins. Let the muffins sit until the glaze sets. Serve!

Note-muffins will keep in an airtight container on the counter for up to 2 days. You can freeze the muffins for up to 1 month. I always freeze them without the glaze. Defrost and then glaze the muffins.

If using frozen blueberries, thaw in refrigerator and drain any excess juice. Frozen blueberries can tint the batter blue/green so thoroughly pat them dry between several layers of paper towels and fold them in gently. Do not over-mix.


Lemon Blueberry Muffins

This is a Land O’Lakes prize winning recipe. I chose to add this one for 2 reasons. First, Land O’Lakes was the first dairy co-op in Minnesota, and second because it includes sour cream, which adds a teeny bit more tartness to the lemon flavor.

Ingredients

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup Land O Lakes® Butter, softened
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1 large Land O Lakes® Egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, unthawed
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

Directions

Heat oven to 375°F. Grease or place paper baking cups into muffin pan cups; set aside.

Combine 1/2 cup sugar and butter in bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add sour cream, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon lemon zest and egg. Continue beating, scraping bowl often, until well mixed.

Combine flour and baking soda in another bowl. Stir flour mixture into sour cream mixture just until moistened. Gently stir in blueberries. Spoon evenly into prepared muffin pan cups.

Combine 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest in bowl. Sprinkle about 1/4 teaspoon mixture on top of each muffin. Bake 17-19 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pan.

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Cisplatin – Week 5

August 15, 2018

I thought this would be my last dose, but there is, of course, one more left. It is going to be the day after I’m finished with radiation. Yes, they finally gave me a date this week. My last treatment will be August 22nd. I’ve heard that they do a ringing the bell “ceremony.” I’m not interested in that. I think of the people who are still stuck on this crazy train of treatments who will never be done. This doesn’t really apply to radiation, but there are some who will never get to be finished with treatment for this shitty disease.

When I went for the blood draw yesterday I was better about being hydrated and the tech was able to get a vein in my arm. One of the reasons I could be better hydrated was that I didn’t mess around with the diarrhea this week. I’m not going to get into what’s going on with the rest of that situation other than to say that it’s about the same, and it’s incredibly uncomfortable and painful to go. I can’t wait to be done with this stuff. In a way, I think its side effects are worse than the AC and Taxol combined. It’s as if I’ve gotten the worst of both of those drugs combined.

The temperature outside finally got tolerable on Friday, so this weekend I made a bunch of food,  including some shrimp. Of course, the bag containing the shrimp shells had to leak on my kitchen floor and all the way down the stairs to the garage, on the garage floor and tore as I was putting it in the can in the garage. I had some really good enzymatic odor killer that I poured into the can right off the bat. Yes, I wanted to cry, but… I got the bleach out and went about cleaning up this mess and putting the can out to the curb a little sooner than normal to avoid the awful smell of rotting shrimp shells. So… interestingly enough, only the recycle guy came through on Tuesday per the schedule. For whatever reason, our trash wasn’t picked up. Oh, yum. My can’s going to be so ripe…

I made a couple of stops on the way home from the infusion, and right on time, I got the headache and started feeling generally like crap within 2 hours after finishing the infusion. I had sort of expected this, even though she did a 25% dose reduction this week. I wasn’t too worried about spiking the fever or treating the headache. I took a couple of Excedrin for Migraines and hoped it would at least dull it for a while. Then I noticed a pain in my left kidney. I gave the Oncologist a call. My doctor was the on-call this week. I let her know about the kidney pain and she reminded me that if it was an infection I pretty much wouldn’t be able to touch that area, and that would be when I needed to go to an ER or Urgent Care. About an hour later, my face started to feel kind of numb and tingly. The last time it felt that way, I had really low blood sugar many years ago.

Needless to say, cleaning my trash can, while at the top of my list so that I don’t get another warning about leaving it out, was not on the top of my list of things I really needed or wanted to do right then. I tried texting my neighbor to help, but never got an answer, so I mustered up the energy to go water my flowers and clean up the trash can so I could go to bed early. Thankfully, it didn’t bowl me over to open the lid. It smelled like the enzymatic cleaner rather than rotten seafood. Yay! So I dumped a couple of buckets full of water in it, drug it to the drain and put it away.

After doing all this, I made my way up to bed. It was about 10:30 pm when I finally got into bed, and my face was still tingling. I took a couple of Tylenol based on last week’s discussion and went to sleep. Sometime overnight, the tingling went away.

When I was in and saw the Oncologist today, I told her that I didn’t really want to do the last one next week. The side effects are killing me. I’m feeling as tired as I was on AC chemo. The other side effects are mostly reminiscent of Taxol, including the crappy taste issues, which I also had on AC but were different. She and the Radiation Oncologist are strongly encouraging me to do this last one even though radiation will be effectively done. She has said before that she’ll be supportive if I don’t want to do it, but they say it’s going to be better if I do it. I’m struggling with the idea that this whole treatment plan hinges on one last treatment to be successful, even though she says that’s not the case. This is more of an insurance policy of sorts, and she’ll be willing to do another dose reduction if I do it. We’ll see how this goes, too.

I woke up feeling okay again and headed to my radiation treatment. While there, I started to get what I call “chemo face.” What that means is that my face flushes the day after the infusion. This week, though, it started only around my mouth area. I looked like Fred Flintstone with his signature 5 o’clock shadow. It doesn’t hurt or itch. It just feels hot. Later, it finally moved up to my cheeks where I normally notice it. I’m flushing a lot more on Cisplatin than I was on any of the other chemos. I’m hoping that this drug doesn’t screw with my sensitivity to Herceptin and Perjeta. I still have 7 months of those to go.

 

 

 

 

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What to Eat – Rhubarb Crisp

If you live in the South, this is going to be something that you might not be able to make. I can’t remember being able to find rhubarb anywhere when I lived in Houston, TX. It might be available in the freezer section of your grocery store. If not, there’s probably a tart apple version you could make that would be similar.

This recipe is from Recipe Rebel 

INGREDIENTS

5 cups rhubarb frozen or fresh, chopped (about 600g)
3/4 cup granulated sugar 150g
1/4 cup corn starch
1/2 cup butter cold, cubed
1/2 cup brown sugar lightly packed
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (or sub all purpose) 65 g

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and lightly grease an 8×8 or 9×9″ pan.

In a large bowl, stir together rhubarb, granulated sugar and corn starch (*if using fresh rhubarb, use only 2 tbsp corn starch). Pour into the prepared pan.

In a large bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, oats, and flour until crumbly (use a pastry cutter, a fork, your hands — whatever works!). Spread over rhubarb in pan and press down lightly.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown on top and thick and bubbly at the edges. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving with ice cream.


How to make Rhubarb Crisp:

This rhubarb crisp recipe is easily made dairy free: simply swap out the butter for dairy-free or vegan margarine or butter. I have never tried using coconut oil, but that might be another option!

This rhubarb crisp recipe is easily made gluten-free: simply swap out the oats for gluten-free oats, swap out the flour for gluten-free flour, and double check all of your packages to be sure.

I used frozen rhubarb in this recipe, because we are slow to get Spring here in Manitoba and it’s all I had available. Fresh and frozen fruit works equally well in a crisp like this, you will just want to reduce the amount of corn starch in the fruit filling if using fresh rhubarb.\

Feel free to add in chopped strawberries, apples, or other fruit if you like! Strawberry rhubarb crisp is just as high on my list of favorite summer desserts as this one! You’ll want to reduce the amount of rhubarb you use and replace it with another fruit of your choice.

HOW TO FREEZE RHUBARB CRISP:

Crisps are great desserts to have on hand in the freezer for last minute company or family dinners.

You can freeze rhubarb crisp to bake later two ways:

Freeze before baking: Simple prepare up to the baking point, cover tightly in two layers of plastic wrap (or cover with a freezer-friendly lid), and freeze until ready to bake. To bake, I recommend leaving the crisp out on the counter to thaw for at least a couple of hours before baking (this helps the dish to warm up before heading into the hot oven). If your dish says that it can go from freezer to oven, then you should be fine putting it right in. If it is browning quickly but is still frozen in the middle, cover with a piece of tin foil and continue baking.

Freeze after baking: prepare and bake according to directions, using a freezer-friendly dish. Cool completely, wrap in plastic wrap or cover with a tight fitting lid, and freeze. To reheat, let thaw at room temperature for 6-8 hours, then cover with tin foil and warm in a 350 degrees oven just until warm. Remove the foil to crisp up the topping once more.

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Radiation Treatments

August 10, 2018

Radiation Machine

I started my radiation treatments at the end of June. I had a week of treatment, then a week and change off before starting again while my oncologists and I figured out what to do about the new mediastinal node. The decision made was to re-start radiation this time combined with a radiosensitizing chemotherapy to make the cancer cells more susceptible to the radiation treatments. The new node also means an additional radiation plan that adds approximately 8-10 days to my existing treatment plan.

The first plan covers my whole right breast area, which includes my right armpit, down to about 2″ below my breast where my bra band rests, and across to about the middle of my chest and up just past my collarbone. The 2nd plan covers the middle of my chest and across to about the middle of my left breast up covers about an inch or so of the bottom of my throat. The way that it works, the plans are set up to go around healthy tissue like my heart and lungs. Between these two plans there are still small parts of my lungs that are getting treated, which can’t be helped. At the end, there is a third plan called a boost.  It won’t cover quite as much area. It’s designed to to eliminate any residual cancerous cells within the breast, which would be in the place where the original tumor was removed and the affected lymph nodes – so for me, that’s my armpit, the one under my pec, and the ones in my mid-chest.

I have radiation treatments every day during the work week. I started out being on the schedule around 9 or 10. Now, I am usually the first one on the schedule in the morning.  Mostly because I want it done and out of the way so that I can work uninterrupted for the rest of the day, and so that there’s nothing else competing for my attention so that I can get there on time. That piece of time management has always been a problem for me, but with chemo brain, it’s much worse.

I’ll be glad to have my days back so that I can be on the road with the rest of the commuters who understand traffic, and at be at work first thing in the morning instead of going to radiation, coming back home to do some meeting calls and get my burn cream on, and then get to the office around noon or later. It feels like a waste to be in the office for only a couple of hours, especially on days when the rest of my team is leaving the office between 2:00 and 3:00 to “beat” traffic, so I either end up staying later into the evening or leaving with them by 3:00.

When going to radiation in the morning, I can’t have any oils, perfumes or alcohol on my skin because it would intensify the burning to my skin, so I take my shower with the oil and fragrance free soaps and make sure that I’ve gotten last night’s cream off of my skin. I have designated bras for going to treatment and after treatment. The ones for going to treatment never touch any of the  burn creams so I know I’m not carrying any oils with me. When I get home after treatment, I put the cream(s) on and change into one of the other bras that I will wear during the week, which help keep the burn cream in place while also keeping my clothes from chafing my much more sensitive skin.

When I get on the table, they line me up using lasers installed in the walls and the tattoos they gave me the first week. Once I’m lined up, they take some x-rays to verify my position is the same, and then the machine moves into position to start treatment. The x-rays are used to make sure my body’s in as close to the same position as possible each day.  The machine reads these x-rays and re-positions the table before positioning to deliver the treatment.

When it’s ready to start the first actual treatment, the machine moves to just below my left shoulder. The aperture of the focuser reminded me of a calligraphy letter “H.” Considering that my last name also starts with “H,” I thought that kind of apropos. Then later, as it moves, it changes shapes. Sometimes just blobs, sometimes aliens, and sometimes it looks like an EKG line. I am not supposed to move my head during treatment, so I don’t get to watch it go all the way around to the other side. I can’t move around because it would mess with the measurements of the machine and I’d be radiating things that weren’t supposed to be treated, which would be bad in the long run. I can usually see the top of the machine when the focuser is over on my other side. It comes to rest down below my right shoulder under my back, and then starts the swing back to my left side. The rotation time takes about 70 seconds. Most days I can hold my breath all the way through the arc. Other days, I can feel my diaphragm or stomach muscles relax, and I have to take a new breath halfway or 3/4 of the way through. On the trip back it goes a lot slower when going past my left arm, and it mostly psyches me out so I have to take a breath to get it through to the finish. When it gets back to its starting position, the focuser rotates around and sets its aperture for the second plan. The whole process takes about 30 minutes from getting me in the right place to taking the x-rays to delivering the radiation.

It’s interesting to watch and think about how the machine moves and what kinds of intricate gearing are required to get it positioned each time. When it sets up for the x-rays, for example, there is a polished steel plate that is brought to my left side. I can hear the larger gears putting it into the right horizontal position, and at a certain point, it moves to a much smaller and precise (and quieter) gearing system to bring the plate closer to me. I can hear the whoosh and clicking sounds of the x-ray machine as it takes the images. Then, the x-ray head is brought around and over me, and the plate moves under. I can see reflections in the clear housings of the x-ray camera sometimes as it moves around. In the reflections, I  can see how the lasers crisscross my body. There are flat panel monitors that show the changes to the coordinates for lining me up that I can sort of see, but can’t really read because of how my head is angled and where they are. Other days, the fact that I have cancer and am having to endure this every day for weeks on end makes me wonder how this got to be my life, what will be next after I’m able to get the next scan in 3 months, and what other side effects will pop up after radiation is done.

Before long, the machine is in position, the sound of the machine being ready to deliver the dosage comes on, and I know it’s time to take a breath and hold it. The tone reminds me of those days in band and orchestra when we tuned with the tuner. For those interested, it’s a concert F pitch.  Kind of fitting considering I played Horn in F for so many years. LOL! When the tone stops, the treatment is done and I can breathe again.

When the machine moves, I can kind of watch it go around and see where it stops. When my diaphragm muscle relaxes, I can see the machine waver a bit, and I know I need to take a new breath. About 3/4 of the time, I get right in the zone and it starts again right away. The other 1/4, I usually have to let some air out to be in the right capacity zone. I am reminded of many days doing breathing exercises with the college band director before we’d start rehearsal.

Each plan takes about 5 minutes to run its course. The techs come back in between plans to reposition me for the next one. The settings aren’t drastically different between them. The machine projects a scale on my chest in centimeters. The techs line up one of my tattoos to this scale, the tattoos under my arms are lined up to the ones on the walls, and the machine head is positioned a certain distance from my skin before we start. The change in position is to move the table a few centimeters and reposition the machine head. At the end of treatment, I hear the tone stop, and the tech comes back in to move the table away from the machine so I can get up. The whole process takes about 30 minutes each day.

Once a week after treatment, I have an appointment with the Radiation Oncologist. She asks how I’m feeling, what my pain levels and areas are, and then takes a look at my skin. At about the 3-4 week mark, my skin started looking pinker. Now, I look like I have a healthy sunburn on most of my chest and part of my neck. It doesn’t really feel burnt other than there are a few spots that feel tight and it itches some. There is one spot by my collarbone that is probably going to blister up and open up. If it does, there is a special cream with silver in it that will help it to heal faster. In the meantime, the nurse gave me a sheet of Mepilex that I can cut into pieces for some of the more sensitive spots, like the one on my collarbone. In that case, it will also help keep my shirt from rubbing on the skin and irritating it more. The magic of Mepilex is that it’s a little thicker than a regular bandage, and the glue on it will stick to anything without causing skin damage. This means that I can put the cream on and the bandage will stay in place. It’s pretty cool stuff.

I tried to get some pictures and video of my treatment, but I wasn’t successful. If you want an idea of what it’s like to get radiation treatment, here’s a video that does pretty much capture how it was for me. This guy’s getting treated for some kind of brain tumor, so he’s got a head immobilizer where I have the breast board and while I *can* move my head, I’m supposed to lay perfectly still in the same position for the whole time. It’s only 5 minutes, so it’s usually not too difficult.

 

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What to Eat – Chicken Cacciatore

This is a dish I first had back in Minnesota at Mamma Vitale’s restaurant in Minneapolis when I was a teenager. In the 90s when microwaveable dinners got better and became more popular, there was a frozen version in our local grocery store. I hadn’t seen it on a menu or had it in years. I was talking to my parents who said that one of the local restaurants makes it once in a while, and I figured that I could probably make it pretty easily at home. I found these two recipes, which are pretty similar. Try them and see which you like better. Hint: add the olives to both. They’re the cornerstone of this dish in my opinion.

Mama T’s Old School Chicken Cacciatore

I found this one on The Chew.

Ingredients

1 whole chicken* (separated into 8 pieces, about 3 – 3 1/2 pounds)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion (sliced)
3 garlic cloves (minced)
1 red bell pepper (sliced)
1 yellow bell pepper (sliced)
3/4 cup red wine
1- 1 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes **
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and pepper (to taste)
crusty bread (to serve)

Directions

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add olive oil to a large high-sided saute pan or heavy-bottomed pot and place over medium-high heat. Add chicken, skin-side-down and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook until browned on the other side. Move chicken to the side of the pot.

Add the onions and garlic, and cook until soft. Add the bell peppers and sauté for a few more minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add a nice splash of wine—whatever is on hand—simmer until reduced by half. Add tomatoes, oregano, red pepper flakes, and season with salt and pepper. Partly cover pan and simmer for about 35 to 40 minutes.

Serve with warm crusty bread.


Chicken Cacciatore – Proud Italian Cook

I found this one on Proud Italian Cook

Ingredients

1 whole chicken, bone-in,skin on and each breast cut in half for smaller pieces *
8oz. mixed mushrooms, like crimini and shiitake
1 onion, diced medium
1 small yellow and red pepper, diced medium
2 small carrots, peeled and sliced
5 garlic cloves, shaved
pitted kalamata olives, a large handful
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup white wine
1 14 oz. can crushed tomatoes **
1 14 oz. can of tiny whole tomatoes or if not available just whole tomatoes.
Assorted herbs, parsley, basil, oregano and thyme
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Instructions

Season chicken with salt, pepper and sprinkled oregano.
Heat a heavy cast iron skillet, drizzled with olive oil.
Place chicken skin side down and do not move it until it reaches a deep golden brown and it’s easy to turn, brown other side for a few minutes. Remove chicken and set aside.
Add vegetables, garlic, salt and pepper to taste, a few twigs of thyme, saute for 5 minutes.
Add wine and let it reduce.
Add chicken broth and tomatoes.
Toss in 1 teaspoon of salt, pepper and chopped fresh basil.
Place the chicken back into the pan and sink into the juices.
Simmer on low, stove top, for a couple of hours or until chicken falls off the bone.  Uncovered.
Garnish with fresh parsley.
Serve with cooked pasta, polenta or warm crusty bread.

* You can also use a package of leg quarters or a package of chicken thighs either bone-in or boneless. I like the boneless version best because I don’t have to worry about digging bones out later.

** I have another recipe for chicken paprikas that calls for fresh roma tomatoes. I’ve substituted the canned crushed tomatoes for an equivalent of fresh cut up roma tomatoes.

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Your Health is an Investment

August 17, 2018

I got asked about 2 months ago if I would tell my story to a women’s networking group at the office. I said sure. I put a slide deck together that talked about our Wellness program – how it’s underutilized and not communicated well enough, at least in my opinion.

I called it, “Defining Wellness – It’s More than Standup Desks and Branded Water Bottles.” I gave the WHO definition of Wellness and one from the National Wellness Center. There was one quote that stuck out at me from one of the websites – “Your health is an investment, not an expense.” How often do we see it that way? That any trip to the doctor is a hassle and a time suck and stay focused on what it’s taking us from rather than what it’s doing for us?

I talked about things that we can and do at the office to promote wellness, like running clubs, water challenges, book clubs, taking the stairs, and a few others. After checking with our benefits coordinator to make sure I wasn’t misspeaking, I went over the other programs available to us free of charge. Then I talked about some of the wellness initiatives provided by our health insurance, which includes well-woman visits, mammograms, depression and diabetes screenings, and the additional services available for families.

Then I got to the fun part. What happens when you don’t put your health first. As I’ve said before, I’ve let my weight get out of hand more than a couple times during my adult life. Because I’m struggling with chemo side and after effects, most of which either cause me pain or completely sap my energy, it’s hard for me to even get out for a walk. I’m looking forward to being able to do this again after this chemo is done and the poison is out of my system.

So what happens when you let yourself go and you don’t check in with a doctor much in 6 years? You might get cancer. You might have a heart attack. You might have blood sugar issues, and you might have a problem with depression that needs to be evaluated and treated. This isn’t, of course, the stuff that happens just because your BMI is too high. It happens because you’re letting stress control your life, or life has thrown you some curve balls like your kid gets sick or in trouble, you or a family member get sick, or your marriage implodes.

I told them all my story. That I hadn’t had a mammogram in 8 years. Hadn’t had a boyfriend in 4 and hadn’t done a breast self exam probably in that same amount of time. I had no family history or other reason that I should be worried about finding a tumor in my breast other than I didn’t have kids.

The effects of this diagnosis on my career are so far not horribly impactful. Thankfully, I still have a job. I know there are places that will let you go immediately when something goes wrong, and I’m thankful every day to work in a place where the company culture puts its employees first. I’m grateful every day that I work for a place that pays for good quality insurance. I’ve seen what chemo costs and my out of pocket has been pretty reasonable all things considered.

Then I talked about how and who to talk to at the office about getting diagnosed. It’s not a thing where I suggested shouting it from the rooftops. I didn’t do that, either, and I’m not sure I’d recommend it anyway. There are a number of key people that I had private conversations with so that I could find out what the next steps were, and also to ensure that my then current project was appropriately wrapped up before rolling off. I know lots of other people are even more private than I am at the office, and I can respect that, but there are people that you need to tell to ensure that they don’t think you’ve suddenly turned into a complete flake that can’t be trusted to do the work.

I’ve worked really hard for the 5 years I’ve worked for this company. I’ve made a lot of positive changes both for myself and for the projects I’ve worked on. The company values what I bring to the table. I don’t want to jeopardize that. I got feedback from a couple of people in leadership positions that talking it through with them at the beginning was so much better than not talking to them or waiting longer before letting them know that I needed some work to do that gave me some flexibility to go to my appointments and still be productive for the company. And it’s not just about giving myself to the company. I need the distraction sometimes. I need to be around and talking to people, especially after basically being quarantined int he house for 7 months. I need to feel useful. I get those needs met by being able to work, even if it’s a low-threshold project. One of the things I get back is that I am more able to be earning PTO just a tiny bit faster than I’m using it, so I don’t have to worry about running out by the end of the year.

There were some things that I was pretty naive in my thinking at the beginning of the process that I had to get really honest with myself and my management team about a couple of months into my treatments. Things like whether or not I could still be client-facing even though I couldn’t travel and wouldn’t likely be able to work in the office until cold and flu season passed. I didn’t have a good handle on how much time off I’d need. It didn’t help that I got sick enough at the end of January to burn through my entire sick leave, which I’d wanted to use to offset the chemo appointments. And I didn’t have a clue what kind of help I’d need at home or work to get through 5 months of chemo. I had a better idea about surgery recovery, and I had no idea about radiation.

I talked through why someone like me needs to sign up for FMLA and who to talk with to make sure that you’re correctly enrolled. Our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) has been immensely helpful in dealing with the shock and emotions that have been hard to face and handle sometimes following this diagnosis. It helps when I feel let down by people who say they’re going to do something for me and then never show up. I reinforced the idea that I don’t want to live, eat, breathe and talk about cancer 24×7. There are a lot of days that I’d rather hear about someone else’s life – what their kids are doing, what they did on vacation, or just about anything not cancer related.

I think one of the most important things I had to say, after repeating several times to make sure that these women knew to keep on top of their screenings, was that they need to support each other, and I gave some specific ways to do that.

  • Ask if your friend/coworker would like company.
  • Offer to bring a meal or start a meal chain.
  • Offer to drive to an appointment or two.
  • Offer to lend an ear if needed.
  • Offer to talk about anything but what your friend/coworker is going through if that’s what they need.

After I was done, the manager that had asked me to do this talk complimented me on how strong I am and how well I’m handling this whole situation. I keep saying… cancer only allows you to do this one day at a time. There is so much of it that is out of my control that there is no other way than just putting one foot in front of the other each day. This is how I’ve always done things that I didn’t want to do or struggled with. I got up and just kept at it, knowing that eventually things would turn around. They always did, and continue to do so. It still feels really nice to be recognized as someone who has their act together.

I only hope that I can get one of the women on the call to go get screened early enough so that they don’t have to go through the level of treatment that I am. I wish I’d been more diligent and had caught this at Stage 1 instead of Stage 2/3. I probably wouldn’t be fighting with a Stage 4 disease today had that been the case. It’s all about lessons learned.

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Ch-ch-ch-changes

Since deciding that I needed to be spending more time doing other things than living in this blog, I’ve struggled some with what to write, how to keep this interesting and what to do about having enough to post on a regular enough basis to keep people reading. I started realizing about 2 weeks ago that I was going to run out of posts and updates on my progress/condition within the next few weeks.

Out on Twitter, where I have an account also with the same name as the blog, I see a lot of content repeated and pushed out on a schedule from other blogs. I don’t want to be repetitive. I think that repeating the same posts over and over causes people not only to lose interest, but also to lose track of what’s going on. I won’t be doing that even when the details of what’s going on in my life might be more than a tad boring.

Once I finish these last chemo and radiation treatments, there isn’t going anything big going on for the next few months, which will mean more posts about unraveling the side effects of radiation and this chemo treatment and a few other things not necessarily related to my cancer. One thing I will be doing is putting together some of those recipe posts I promised back when I started the blog, and I’ll be moving to a bit slower schedule, posting once a week.

Stay tuned!! I promise it won’t get too boring!

 

 

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